Lord Justice Pitchford is clearly very reluctant to release any personal information about those who were spied on beyond the details the Undercover Policing Inquiry feels that it needs to conduct its investigations. This is not the same, of course, as releasing the files that were gathered on individuals so they can understand the extent of the intelligence gathering and surveillance on them. So, let’s help them a bit!
Releasing our files has been a key demand since the public inquiry began.
Core participants have argued, however, that the public inquiry is the only way for them to realistically obtain any information held by the police, because other routes such as attempting to use data protection legislation are constantly met up the police hiding, as ever, behind national security.
We need to build up the evidence prove this, which is why as many core participants as possible need to strongly consider making a subject access request to the Metropolitan Police, which controls the various National Special Branch Intelligence System databases (the so called ‘domestic extremism’ databases).
It is likely that the Met will stonewall most core participants. This is something we are used to now, but it is still important to expose these tactics. In the event that some people do receive some information, this will in itself help to show why we should receive our full files – not least because others have found the limited details they have been given include trivia, gossip and entirely false information
How to make a subject access request
You can find a model letter here.
You do not need to return this to the Met with any fee but you do need to include
a photocopy of a proof of identification (a passport or driving licence usually) and
a photocopy of a proof of address (a gas or electricity utility bill tends to have the least personal information) that is less than six months old.
You need to balance whether giving this information reveals details the police might not already hold. However, as core participants, it seems unlikely the police do not already know basic information such as who you are and where you live.
If you do decide to make a subject access request, at the very least tell your solicitor:
the date that you made the request,
any replies you receive from the Met, including letters or emails saying they need more time and
if you receive a response, whether it was helpful or not – if it was a “neither confirm nor deny” response or if you received some data.
It would also help if you could also contact Kevin Blowe at Netpol, who is helping to collate responses to core participants.
Remember: if you are fortunate enough to receive anything back from the police, it remains your personal data – you are not obliged to share specific details with anyone.
The Met are supposed to reply within 40 days – but this seems unlikely, as many people who are currently waiting for 6 months for a response.
This is why you need to think about making a request now and not leaving it to later.
If you have prompted the police for a response after 40 days and are getting nowhere, you can find details about complaining to the Information Commissioner on the NetPol website.